By Josh Popichak – Family-run Wycombe Vineyards in the heart of Bucks County is a European-style vineyard, owner Rich Fraser says, and that means everyone in the family–plus friends–helps with the wine-making and has fun doing it. Even guests at Wycombe can help with the annual harvest, which Fraser said is a great learning opportunity for wine-lovers.
Located on a bucolic 65-acre property that’s been in Fraser’s wife’s family for nearly a century, the vineyard produced its first vintage in 2005 and opened to the public in 2006.
Back then Fraser was working in the insurance business, but felt he needed a change.
“I really wanted to get out of corporate,” he recalled.
With the family farm in preservation and following a successful test planting of classic Vitas vinifera to determine soil suitability, he decided on a career change to that of a winemaker.
The end result is that today, Wycombe Vineyards is home to approximately 10 acres of Vitas vinifera and French Hybrid grape vines, which collectively produce the grapes needed to bottle about 15,000 bottles of wine per year.
That may sound like a lot, but Fraser said all of his wines are “pretty much selling out.”
Some of that is due to a loyal clientele, including guests who return year after year to help with the harvest, which is done by hand.
Fraser said machines shake not only grapes out of the vines, but also dirt, insects and other things you probably wouldn’t want mixed together with the grapes picked to become your favorite wine.
Part of the fun of harvest time for volunteers is the opportunity to discover the flavor profiles of grapes picked fresh from the vine and compare them with the taste of the wine they’re made into later on.
Harvesting typically takes place on Sundays in September and October, depending on the weather. It’s free to participate and lunch is provided, however volunteers must RSVP and space is limited.
Once they’ve been picked, Wycombe grapes are hand-pressed, with the juice extracted using a wine press Fraser built.
Cold stabilization follows as part of the fermentation process, which he said helps prevent the wine from being clouded by crystallized tartaric acid; a natural byproduct of fermentation.
At the end of the journey from grape to bottle it is finally time to enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labors, and those can conveniently be tasted (and purchased) on the premises.
Wine tastings can be held on the shaded wine deck off the tasting room at Wycombe, and when the weather is nice everyone is welcome to enjoy the vineyard’s outside tables, which are available on a first come, first serve basis.
Some of the wines Wycome Vineyards produces are:
- Dry White:Traminette, Riesling, Naked Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio
- Dry Red:Chambourcin, Smokehouse Red, Ruby Port
- Sweet/Dessert:Apfelwein, Sangria, Dandelion Wine
Fraser said that among their traditional white wines, Wycombe’s Traminette–made from a Gewurtztraminer hybrid that grows well in Bucks County–is a best-seller.
Among the dry reds, the Smokehouse Red–which he described as a combination of Chambourcin and their Cabernet Franc–is the most popular.
And for sweet wines, Sangria is hands-down the bestseller.
“I can’t make enough,” Fraser said.
In addition to weekend tastings, Wycombe Vineyards hosts special events periodically throughout the year. More information about them can be found on their Facebook page.
Wycombe Vineyards is located at 1391 Forest Grove Road in Furlong, Pa.